HARARE – Zimbabwe could be on the brink of a calamitous political crisis, after the country’s restless military bosses sharply rebuked President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF yesterday — warning ominously that they would not hesitate to step in if the ruling party continues with its worsening mindless bloodletting.
Speaking in Harare in the unprecedented public reprimand of Mugabe and Zanu PF, the commander of the Defence Forces — General Constantino Chiwenga — also warned the former liberation movement against firing struggle stalwarts from within its ranks.
“The current purging of which is clearly targeting members of the party with a liberation background must stop forthwith,” the visibly angry general thundered at a media conference.
His open and scathing criticism of the Zanu PF leadership came after former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa was fired from both the government and the warring ruling party last week, for allegedly showing “traits of disloyalty”.
“It is pertinent to restate that the Zimbabwe Defence Forces remain the major stockholder in respect to the gains of the liberation struggle and when these are threatened we are obliged to take corrective measures.
“Clearly, Zanu PF — having mainly been the only party that has ruled this country since independence — it has become a household name to most Zimbabweans across the political divide.
“Accordingly, there is distress, trepidation and despondence within the nation. Our peace-loving people who have stood by their government and endured some of the trying social and economic conditions ever experienced are extremely disturbed by what is happening within the ranks of the national revolutionary party.
“What is obtaining in the revolutionary party is a direct result of the machinations of counter revolutionaries who have infiltrated the party and whose agenda is to destroy it from within.
“It is saddening to see our revolution being hijacked by agents of our erstwhile enemies who are now at the brink of returning our country to foreign domination against which so many of our people perished,” Chiwenga said while flanked by the commander of the Zimbabwe National Army, General Phillip Valerio Sibanda, the acting commander of the Air Force of Zimbabwe, as well as several major generals and brigadier generals.
“It is our strong and deeply considered position that if drastic action is not taken immediately, our beloved country Zimbabwe is definitely headed to become a neo-colony again.
“The current purging and cleansing process in Zanu PF, which so far is targeting mostly members associated with our liberation history, is a serious cause for concern to us in the defence forces,” Chiwenga added.
This is the first time ever in post-independent Zimbabwe that the country’s military has publicly rebuked Mugabe and Zanu PF. When they have openly veered into politics, this has mostly been to lambast the opposition.
Zanu PF has for the past five years been devouring itself through its internecine infighting, which first led to the expulsion of former vice president Joice Mujuru in the run up to the party’s congress in 2014.
Mujuru — together with party stalwarts who included Cabinet ministers Didymus Mutasa and Rugare Gumbo — were hounded out of the former liberation movement on untested allegations of plotting to topple Mugabe from power.
At the beginning of 2015, the infighting escalated further, as a faction of young Turks going by the moniker Generation 40 (G40) launched a vicious and ultimately successful assault on Mnangagwa, as it went full steam to derail his ambitions to succeed Mugabe.
Mnangagwa, until his surprise sacking last week, had been Mugabe’s aide for more than five decades and many people were for long seeing him as a shoo-in to succeed the Zanu PF leader.
However, and particularly since the beginning of this year, it had become evident that the relationship between the two men had become increasingly strained and untenable.
With Zanu PF divided in the middle over the party’s unresolved succession riddle, the tribal and factional feuds took an ominous turn in August when Mnangagwa fell sick during an interface rally in Gwanda — which his backers said was allegedly a poison attack by his G40 enemies.
The Midlands godfather was later airlifted to South Africa where he received emergency surgery.
He subsequently issued a statement denying that his illness was caused by ice cream from the First Family’s Gushungo Dairies, although he consistently suggested that he had indeed been poisoned.
In the past few weeks, powerful first lady Grace cranked up the heat on Mnangagwa, accusing him of fanning the ruling party’s rampant factionalism, being a coward and also occupying a position that should have been reserved for a woman.
After firing Mnangagwa, who has since gone into self-imposed exile, Zanu PF provinces have now also since gone on to recommend the expulsion of more than 100 senior officials said to have been backing him.
Among those facing the chop are ministers Patrick Chinamasa, Kembo Mohadi, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, Josaya Hungwe, Christopher Mushohwe, Christopher Chingosho and Win Mlambo — who are all set to appear before a party disciplinary hearing.
Yesterday, Chiwenga also said bluntly that as a result of the Zanu PF infighting, there had been little progress in the country.
“As a result of squabbling within the ranks of Zanu PF, there has been no meaningful development in the country for the past five years.
“The resultant economic impasse has ushered in more challenges to the Zimbabwean populace, such as cash shortages and rising commodity prices.
“While our people may be persuaded to take what is going on in Zanu PF as internal political matters in that party, the truth remains that Zanu PF’s conduct and behaviour as a ruling party has direct impact on the lives of every citizen — hence all of us, regardless of political affiliation, are affected by the party’s manner of doing business.
“From a security point of view, we cannot ignore the experiences of countries such as Somalia, DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), Central Africa Republic and many others in our region where minor political differences degenerated into serious conflict that has decimated the social, political and economic security of ordinary people,” Chiwenga said.
The military boss said Section 212 of the Constitution mandated the Zimbabwe Defence Forces to protect Zimbabwe and to uphold the Constitution.
“Among other security threats that are coming out of what is obtaining in Zanu PF are reckless utterances by politicians denigrating the military, which are causing despondency within the rank and file.
“Further, we note with concern the attempts by some politicians to drive a wedge between the security services, for their own selfish interests. This is unacceptable.
“We take great exception to this behaviour. The military is an institution whose roles cut across the wider spectrum of government support functions in the form of military aid to civil power and military aid to civil ministries, which are roles derived from defence instruments.
“Therefore, we want to state here and now that the history of our revolution cannot be re-written by those who have not been part of it,” Chiwenga added.